The most important thing about a CV is the personal statement, covered here.
After you have written your personal statement and put it front and centre, what else goes on a CV?
Before we go into that, let’s first look at the reason for writing one in the first place. A CV is written to help us get a job interview, there is not much more to it than that.
A really great CV is a really great CV and it will get you an interview. But it will not make anyone’s mind up, you will have to do that at interview.
What goes on a CV? Anything that will help you get an interview.
There are far too many “do’s and don’ts” and “rules for a perfect CV” articles out there that more or less encourage you to create a boring and safe CV.
Before you go creating a pink and green CV on a circular piece of paper, boring and safe is not referring to the lay out! You are creating a professional document and you do need to bear in mind the reader when producing it. A clean and organised CV will make it easy for them.
Let’s take a look at what needs to go on a CV and some tips on how to make each part compelling.
A personal statement
Covered separately here and fundamental for getting the right kind of attention.
Typically people include the company they worked for, their position and the dates (all fine) followed by a bullet point list of their responsibilities and achievements.
This is wrong for 2 reasons. Firstly, they cram in everything they do, which means too much and often irrelevant detail in the CV.
When sending a CV to a company, include only what is relevant to them. If I am applying for a creative position does it matter that I was responsible for “maintaining and organising the filing system”? Of course not, it is padding that detracts from the key messages.
Emphasise your key strengths and weaknesses in relation to that role and you will increase the chances that your CV will resonate with the reader. It also helps keep your CV to a reasonable length.
Does it take longer? Does it take more effort? Yes, I am afraid it does! But it will be worth it when you land your dream job!
Secondly, every item on the bullet pointed list may not get the attention it deserves. Break it down.
Under each role you should include first, “key achievements”.
Something like “Led the sales team to 3 consecutive quarters of record sales” or “Consistently achieved highest accuracy ratings in data entry team”.
Next you can list “key responsibilities”.
The trick here is to describe the responsibility in a way that will show that you can transfer it to the job and company you are applying to.
Think about leading a team. An Army General will do it through ruthless discipline. A Creative Director will do it be allowing people to flourish within guidelines. Both are legitimate leader styles but both will not resonate with the same company. What is it about your responsibility that will resonate?
A final point on work experience: be specific.
Education & Professional Qualifications
The information you include about your education and where you put it will depend very much on your experience and what stage of your career you are at.
A school leaver or graduate without job experience will need to make their education prominent on their CV.
A 20-year qualified Finance Director may not include their school qualifications at all, they are unlikely to be relevant. Professional qualifications however will be very prominent.
Stick to the maxim: include only information that will help you get an interview.